Sunday, June 20, 2010

Canned Heat

My son Ben and I traveled to the delightfully-named city of Effingham, Illinois, to see Canned Heat yesterday afternoon. Canned Heat: as in “Going Up the Country,” Monterey Pop, Woodstock. I’ve been a fan for a very long time, since 1968 or so. (Yes, I was a blues geek.¹) Canned Heat was to my mind the most adventurous, innovative blues-rock group of all, largely because of the musical abilities of Alan Wilson (guitar, harmonica, vocals), whose often-psychedelic reimaginings of pre-war acoustic blues took the band far beyond the more usual blues-rock territory of twelve-bar Chicago blues.

Canned Heat is still a group thanks to the dedicated stewardship of drummer Fito de la Parra, who joined in 1967. He’s been there ever since, through the deaths of three original members (Wilson, Bob “The Bear” Hite, and Henry Vestine) and several later ones. Also playing yesterday: Barry Levenson (guitar), Dale Spalding (bass, guitar, harmonica, vocals), and Larry Taylor (bass, guitar, vocals). Taylor was with Canned Heat from 1967 to 1970 and has played on and off with the group ever since. If you think you recognize that beard: Taylor often plays with Tom Waits.

[Larry Taylor, Dale Spalding, Barry Levenson. June 19, 2010.]

[Larry Taylor. June 19, 2010.]

[Fito de la Parra. June 19, 2010.]

Songs played: “Bullfrog Blues,” “On the Road Again,” “Time Was,” “Fine Little Mama,” “Amphetamine Annie,” “Going Up the Country,” “Future Blues,” “The Story of My Life,” “So Sad (The World’s in a Tangle),” “Sugar Bee,” “Let’s Work Together,” and “Woodstock Boogie” (or at least something with similar lyrics). The musical highlight: Larry Taylor’s comprehensive bass solo on the final boogie. The other highlight: stepping up into an RV after the set to meet the musicians and get autographs.

Canned Heat tours and plays everywhere. We saw the group at a birthday celebration for a motorcycle dealership, Legacy Harley-Davidson. (Bikers and blues geeks alike are fans.) The group’s next stops: Texas and Montana. Then it’s two months in Europe. Take care on the road, Canned Heat.

If you’ve ever wondered: the name Canned Heat comes from Tommy Johnson’s “Canned Heat Blues” (1928), a song about the dangerous pleasures of drinking Sterno.

[Photographs by Michael Leddy.]

Further reading
Canned Heat (Official website)

Related posts
Alan Wilson
Hooker ’n Heat

¹ Still am.

(Thanks, Ben, for making the trip with me.)

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